Home > The Stubborn Billionaire (The Muse #1)

The Stubborn Billionaire (The Muse #1)
Author: Lexxie Couper


Chapter One

“Three and a half thousand dollars?” Sienna Roberts gripped her phone tighter and stared hard at the large white canvas before her. Calm down. Just calm down. One, two, three, four—

“Then there is the issue of the girl’s broken wrist.” The prissy male voice on the other end of the line shattered any chance of keeping her poise. “Zachary is responsible for that as well, and her parents are threatening legal action.”

Oh, I bet they are.

She rubbed at her closed eyes with her free hand. Who wouldn’t think of suing when the target was the son of Platinum Joe, a man once the country’s most successful and outlandish talent agent? They probably thought they’d be tapping a gold mine.

She opened her eyes and let out a slow breath. “I know my brother isn’t himself at the moment”—she struggled to keep her voice calm—“but he’s not normally aggressive.” She focused on the pristine canvas before her. She seriously needed to regain control of her emotions. Not an easy task. Not when the predominate thought in her head was, I’m gonna kill him. Was her petulant half brother or reprobate father the walking corpse? At this point in time, Sienna conceded that either would suffice. “Are you sure Zach was involved in the fight?”

A snooty sniff came through the connection. What did Mr. Fenchurch look like? Clearly, he was one of those men who considered being the principal of an elite private school more important and worthy than being Mother Teresa. Definitely small in stature, receding hairline, uptight bowtie, and socks held up by suspenders… “Zachary is absolutely responsible,” Mr. Fenchurch blustered. Damn, was the very notion of Zach’s possible innocence tantamount to heresy? “He admitted to starting the fight. In fact, he boasted about it.”

She rubbed her eyes again. Oh, Zach. What am I going to do with you? “Why didn’t you call me when this happened? Surely I should have been informed straight away. Three hours after the event seems a little strange.”

A long pause stretched through the connection. “Zachary informed us you weren’t available. He said you were posing for a…ahem, a Playboy photo shoot.”

She almost dropped her phone. “A what?”

That’s it, Zach. You’re dead.

“It is of no consequence, Ms. Roberts,” Fenchurch hurried on, embarrassment clear in his thin voice. “The Point School is not here to judge the family of our students. We are here to educate the children of our community’s finest citizens. We are here to shape and mold our country’s future leaders. I’m sure you can understand Zachary has no place in such an environment. I’m afraid I had no choice but to expel him and send him home. We will not accept antisocial behavior on our grounds, regardless of the situation.”

She blew a puff of frustrated breath into her fringe. The situation. It always came back to the situation. The famous father with a major gambling addiction in jail for embezzlement, the trophy-wife stepmother dead from a heroin overdose, the estranged daughter lumped with her father’s exorbitant legal bills—how that happened, she still couldn’t work out. She had, after all, wiped her hands of her father over eight years ago. Plus, there was the extremely spoiled and overindulged half brother sent to live with her, intent on making life hell for everyone, and next to no money coming in because her once prosperous art career had seemingly gone the way of the dodo. That was the situation.

Add to that no social or sex life to speak of, and now a bill for 3,500 dollars to replace a musical instrument Zach didn’t even play, along with the threat of more costly court bills she couldn’t afford, and Sienna felt pretty damn miserable. This was just not her year.

She snorted. Hey, at least now I have a legitimate reason for sending Zach to a public school. If nothing else, no more ridiculously expensive monthly tuition fees, right?

The depressing memory of the broken violin and broken wrist came back to her, and she sighed into her fringe again. “Is there any way we can work this out?”

“Absolutely.” The condescension in his voice made her teeth ache. “Pay the three and a half thousand dollars and contact your solicitor.” Another one of those deliberate pauses followed, and then the man continued, his thin voice no longer prissy but snide. “May I suggest, however, you don’t use the same man who represented your father?”

Hot anger yanked Sienna out of her self-pity. “Thank you for that advice, Mr. Fenchurch. And may I suggest you remember exactly where my father is at this moment. Annoying the daughter of an inmate of Long Bay Jail isn’t overly smart. I’ve met some of his new associates, and they would delight in making your acquaintance, I’m sure. In fact, Steel-bar Tony is due for parole tomorrow. Perhaps I can give him your number?”

“Uh…uh…”

Not so snide or prissy now, are you, Fenchurch? “Now, if you’ll excuse me,” she put a wide smile in the dismissal, “Hugh Hefner himself is supervising the photo shoot. Have a good day.”

She killed the call halfway through Fenchurch’s flustered but, but, but.

“Damn you, Zach.” She tossed her phone onto a nearby chair and stormed around the various easels and drawing boards in her small studio, clenching and unclenching her fists. “Damn you.”

Stopping once more in front of the large blank canvas, she studied its untouched purity. Over the next six weeks, she’d planned to transform it into a portrait that would, hopefully, win her the Barton National Portrait Prize and elevate her once flourishing career to a wider public level. Now, however, it was likely to stay a blank square of white. The money required to enter the prestigious art contest, pay for materials and framing, plus entertain a prominent Australian figure while they sat for her had just disappeared in one phone call.

She dragged her hands through her hair and stared at the canvas. She didn’t know who she was angrier with—Zach, her father, Mr. Fenchurch, or herself. What the hell was she to do now?

It didn’t help that neither she nor Zach had received any normal kind of upbringing. Zach had been raised by a series of nannies hired more for their bust size than their parental skills. Their father had done him no favors by giving him whatever he wanted and never disciplining him, while his mother had spent every day in a drug-induced haze until the night she’d drowned in their guitar-shaped swimming pool. Great role model there.

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